The first prime seemed to have sunk a meditative state that allowed her to ignore the host’s provocative dishonesty.
Many were curious as to what was happening.
Wasn’t the Eternal Sacred Land supposed to be the prevailing authority? Why was the autocratic first prime suddenly silent when obviously targeted and suppressed? This didn’t seem typical sacred ground style at all.
The other matches were no longer interesting. The audience focused on the fight between Xiahou Zong and Jiang Chen.
Meanwhile, everyone on the sacred land’s side was furious. The cheating was far too obvious! Was the imperial family trumpeting their own clout to the sacred land?
Yan Qingsang had mixed feelings at the moment. On one hand, he wanted Jiang Chen to pull off a miracle and smother Xiahou Zong’s arrogance. On the other, he was far too wary of Xiahou Zong to think that Jiang Chen could do that with any ease.
“Brother, Xiahou Zong is different from all the others. Don’t bring an unrealistic attitude into the ring. He’s no Shen Fan, no Gan Ning – or anyone else, for that matter. Let’s put it this way: all of the opponents you’ve had up to now combined wouldn’t win against him. You have to keep your guard up and think of yourself as an underdog. Constant vigilance and a bit of luck may just help you turn it all around…” He tried to give Jiang Chen some advice.
Jiang Chen was completely relaxed. “Brother Yan.” He patted Yan Qingsang’s shoulder. “I’m totally calm right now. Unfortunately, I can’t take your advice. For this one, I’m following only my heart and true self. If you trust me, then be at ease and admire how the fight plays out. If you’re angry at Xiahou Zong, watching what’s about to happen will definitely be an outlet for that.”
“You…” Yan Qingsang was stunned.
Jiang Chen looked away, to the other geniuses from the sacred land. Most of them were of one mind by now. Though none said anything specifically, their eyes communicated all.
Gentleman Sui Chen was the only one to don a caring smile that seemed slightly hollow. “Brother Shao Yuan, we don’t know each other that well, but do take care. It’s not a big deal to surrender. There’s nothing shameful about abstaining from fighting a monster.”
The other geniuses were somewhat taken aback at this declaration.
Wu You, who’d lost to Jiang Chen earlier, frowned. “What do you mean by that, Sui Chen? Are we supposed to give up out of fear before we even engage in a fight?”
Sui Chen sighed softly. “I only mean the best for Brother Shao Yuan. He is a pill dao genius of the sacred land. What’s the point of risking his life in a tournament like this? Plus, who else among us can match Xiahou Zong in a deathmatch, anyways? Self-preservation seems better to me.”
“I think it’s because you chose to surrender earlier yourself, Sui Chen,” Wu You declared coolly. “You want everyone to react just like you, is that it?”
“What do you mean by that, Wu You?” Sir Sui Chen responded with displeasure. “Are you mocking me? Do you have the courage to fight Xiahou Zong yourself?”
Wu You’s tone took on an edge of hostility as well. “Even if I were a coward myself, I wouldn’t recommend others to be the same. Everyone is free to make their own choice.”
Jiang Chen smiled serenely. “That’s enough of this bickering. We are all peers of the same faction, so there’s no need for us to argue. Xiahou Zong has enjoyed his undeserved fame for many years. Someone has to rip off his mask in the end.”
Without further ado, he strode towards the arena.
This fight was perhaps one of the most key events to take place since Jiang Chen had come to Eternal Divine Nation–or Myriad Abyss, for that matter. He didn’t know what would happen if he won. But the worst would happen if he lost. Of course, he didn’t think he was going to lose.
He walked slowly and simply into the arena, each step studied and deliberate, as if he was counting the number of steps.
At first glance, he seemed to be walking to his own execution ground.
Even those who’d hoped Jiang Chen would win shook their heads. The weakness in the way he was entering the ring was prediction enough for what was to come. Was he trying to delay the fight because of dread?
Jiang Chen, however, had fully entered a meditative state in which he had no sense of self. He was entering and melding into a whole new world.
Finally, he was done with all the steps.
Both hands behind his back, Xiahou Zong towered above all upon the stage with his handsome figure. For the onlookers, he gave off an impression of being too lofty to reach. There was a contemptuous curve flitting on his lips. All other life was as ants to him.
“Maybe you think just walking into the arena is a kind of victory, Shao Yuan.” His voice was very soft, but resonated upon the eardrums of every audience member. The resonance was almost overwhelming. “Looks like you’ve realized it as well, from the way you walked here. This will be the day of your death. This arena will be your tomb.”
The hint of contempt crept all over his face. To him, Jiang Chen was just a cockroach or flea in its last throes. A bug he would momentarily crush beneath a single finger.
A slight smile broke through Jiang Chen’s somber expression. His glacial demeanor was suddenly filled with sunlight.
The genius who everyone thought had consigned himself to death was radiant all of a sudden. Like a small blade of hardy grass weathering a storm, he may be humble, but he was resilient. Had Shao Yuan actually been brainstorming a strategy?
“You still have a chance.” Xiahou Zong’s ear-piercing voice echoed at Jiang Chen’s ear once more. “I grant you an opportunity to kneel to me and become my servant. I can forgive your past indiscretions. For though I mete out decisive judgment, I am also occasionally merciful.”
Jiang Chen laughed.
“I’ve had enough of you blowing hot air, Xiahou Zong. It’s time for me to put in a few words of my own.” His grin widened as he spoke. “I counted eighty-one steps into the ring, each corresponding to a way for you to die. Which do you prefer, if I may ask?”
The grin transformed the young man into utter light-hearted and relaxed composure. To him, Xiahou Zong was the ant.
Jiang Chen hadn’t exactly kept his voice down, which allowed everyone else to hear what he’d said as well. The crowd collectively doubted their ears.
How could Shao Yuan say something like this to Xiahou Zong? Did he no longer want to live? Or was he cutting off any hope of retreating?
Was this the resolution he’d adopted in the face of certain death?
Some were shocked, others amused, still others scornful or sympathetic. Above all, there was a general mood of confusion.
Xiahou Zong raised an eyebrow. Rather than being incited to anger, he smiled. “Maybe you’re trying to provoke me with your foolish words, kid, or push yourself to new heights by cutting off your way out. What a shame that it’s all pointless. Do you know why I’m even talking to you right now? I only need a single breath to kill you. You don’t have much longer to live, so I’m taking this time to admire your ugliness as much as I can. You’re going to spend a very, very long time dying!”
“You’re great at spinning stories.” Jiang Chen suddenly started clapping. “I appreciate the marvelous fiction, Xiahou Zong. But the audience will admire someone’s ugliness today: yours!”
Without waiting for a response, he smiled faintly. “You’re not the first of House Xiahou to die at my hands. Aside from Xiahou Xi, there was Xiahou Jing as well. You, Xiahou Zong, will be the third.”
“What did you say? Xiahou Jing?” Xiahou Zong suddenly paused.
“Xiahou Jing.” Jiang Chen nodded smoothly.
Though Xiahou Zong was mildly bewildered, he quickly shrugged it off with a smile. “They were trash anyway. So they’re dead? What of it? But even the trash you killed belongs to House Xiahou. You have no right to kill them. This is just another strike on your list of crimes.”
“I don’t see you as any different from them, Xiahou Zong,” Jiang Chen sneered. “All of your pride and accolades are a joke to me. Alright, enough small talk; if you’re the cause of House Xiahou’s unrealistic ambitions, then let me annihilate them – starting with you!”
He grew stern as he finished, then made a single motion. Innumerable pillars of golden light flared up, enshrouding his entire body within.
It was Jiang Chen’s tempered body from the Nine Transformations of Demons and Gods, a method worthy of being ranked in the heavenly planes. He hadn’t managed to perfect it prior to empyrean realm, but fourth level empyrean meant a world of difference. All sorts of abilities and methods he had trouble with before were perfected without much effort.
The magnificently splendid golden light stunned the crowd into awed silence. Some who’d lost their faith in Jiang Chen regained a little of it.
Xiahou Zong smirked with disdainful arrogance. “Maybe you have a few skills, kid, or a bloodline you inherited. But do you think that you can even shake the great Xiahou Zong? Open your eyes! We’re in Eternal Divine Nation! I am like a great tree that touches the sky, and you, a slightly bigger ant. The idea that you have any chance at all is absolutely ludicrous!”